The real race for excellence is the one where you sprint against yourself, endeavour to outperform, raise the bar, time after time. Excellence is an ever-moving target, averred Mr Aditya Birla.
Extracts from Mr Aditya Birla’s talk on the occasion of his being felicitated with the "Vocational Excellence Award" by the Rotary International District Conference in 1995.
My vocation is to strive continuously, to reach excellence in all spheres of management, by weaving the threads of enterprise, knowledge, experience, ideas and tasks into a fabric that can be called "management". My job is to motivate, to bring together and fuse human talent, so that they act in harmony and in unison - as one team, directed towards a single purpose, a single goal.
I have been asked to share some of the tenets, which we follow in our Group. These tenets have stood us in good stead, and as suggested, I will share some of these with you.
In our Group, our first and foremost objective is to satisfy our larger family, our family comprising of our shareholders, our customers and our employees. Towards this objective, our credo is, 'strive for excellence and perfection in all spheres of management, through continuous improvement.' This is the Birla Management Centre's commitment. This is our Group's philosophy. This is our motto.
For our shareholder, it is our job, and our commitment to create wealth for him, and to amply reward the faith that he has reposed in us.
For our customer, we believe that 'the customer is always right'. Our motto is to give him total satisfaction, in terms of quality and service.
For our colleagues and employees, our motto is 'your growth is our concern'. This necessarily implies a two-way traffic: the organisation should be as committed to the employees as the employees are to the organisation.
I have been asked to talk about my vocation - "Managing a Group of Diverse Businesses". It may surprise you that, in several aspects, my vocation is similar to that of an artist. Let me start with:
The need for this is felt, in a rapidly changing and challenging scenario. It is not possible, for just a few people at the top alone, to lead corporations to peaks of excellence. It requires the involvement, the commitment and the participation, of one and all, to meet the threats of today's challenging environment and capitalise on future opportunities.
A decision reached by the interaction of several minds, is a distilled decision, and by far superior, to decisions taken by an individual in isolation. We endeavour to pick on the brains of each and every individual in the organisation. The impact of giving your people, space — giving them freedom to act and to take decisions — can be dramatic.
Talking of Knowledge Integration Programme, we have more than 50 units in 8 countries. Each unit has in some areas its centres of excellence, as also pockets of ignorance.
We pass on excellence in knowledge, at any one centre, speedily and immediately, in an effective manner, to other units. This gives us a cutting edge with respect to competition. This also means that we do not have to reinvent the wheel at every unit and solve the same problem, at several centres, at great cost, wasting considerable time.
Our search for knowledge is not limited to within the Group. We seek knowledge from every nook and corner, from our competitors, suppliers, customers et al. Even the worst run units in India, would have something to teach us. It is with this humility that we seek knowledge.
The more we learn, the greater is our awareness of how little we know. As they say, "The learner inherits the world.” I am reminded of a funny story - when a consultant was asked to look into the reasons, why a particular business, was not doing well.
He started by interviewing the employees.
The consultant asked one of them, “What do you do?"
The employee replied ”Nothing.”
Then he asked the next employee what was he doing.
The reply again was ”Nothing.”
The consultant, therefore, concluded that the reason for the business not doing well was that two people were doing the same thing, and therefore, one of them was redundant.
The third tenet of our philosophy is Skills Development Programme. In a dramatic and ever changing scenario, where technology is out-pacing the human mind and skills, it is imperative that we train our people, not just to excel but before that to keep pace with the sophisticated equipment, techniques and operating and maintenance systems, all of which are unfolding in a dramatic manner, because, all said and done, the technology, the machines, are all driven by the human mind and if these skills are not available, we will not be able to cope with either the new technologies or operate new sophisticated machines.
This impressed on us, the need to upgrade the skills of people on a constant basis, on a war footing, with total dedication and commitment. We do this to the best of our abilities — constantly and consistently — so that we remain prepared to adapt to the evolution and revolution of technology. The guiding principle and motto of everyone in the organisation has to be:
We now come to systems perfection. High levels of expertise and skills are required in individuals to run complex organisations. But if you provide the platform, the support of good systems and established procedures in an organisation, then even an average person can outperform the brilliant one, who works without the back up of systems. We have therefore striven hard to perfect our systems and operations procedure, which has benefited us greatly.
With the ever-expanding size of businesses, the initiatives of just a few people at the top cannot run an organisation successfully or efficiently. With size, comes the need to delegate and decentralise. It is also essential for attracting talent. The talented would not like to join an organisation which is highly centralised, because today's generation needs space, needs freedom, needs the platform to be creative and assertive and to be able to take its own decisions.
Time and again, the supremacy of the human element cannot be over- emphasised. The success or failure of an organisation depends on people, on human beings, on their talent, on their initiative, on their enterprise, on their ability to lead and coordinate with others, to work as a team. It also depends on the ability of the organisation, to motivate them to greater heights. All these are a part of human resources development.
From the act of recruiting people, charting out their career growth, giving them opportunities through cross functional training. Making them a part of you - the organisation - and making the organisation responsive to their needs, to their hopes, and their aspirations. This whole, complex gamut of activities used to attract, to retain, to support and then to groom people, to take on leadership responsibilities, is encompassed under HRD on which our Group lays great emphasis.
The future belongs to those organisations, which have a strong management base. It belongs to those organisations, which have a vision, which have the will to fight and the ability to excel. The future belongs to those organisations, which have the awareness to keep changing their management styles and systems in tune with the changing kaleidoscope of the external environment, and also with the hopes and aspirations of its own people.
More speeches by Mr. Aditya Vikram Birla
Dr. Pragnya RamGroup Executive President, Corporate Communications & CSRAditya Birla Management Corporation Private LimitedAditya Birla Centre, 1st Floor, 'C' WingS.K. Ahire Marg, WorliMumbai 400 030.
91-22-6652 5000 /2499 5000
Fax: 91-22-6652 5741/ 42